1st Edition

Xenolinguistics Towards a Science of Extraterrestrial Language

Edited By Douglas A. Vakoch, Jeffrey Punske Copyright 2024
    248 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    248 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Xenolinguistics brings together biologists, anthropologists, linguists, and other experts specializing in language and communication to explore what non-human, non-Earthbound language might look like. The 18 chapters examine what is known about human language and animal communication systems to provide reasonable hypotheses about what we may find if we encounter non-Earth intelligence.

    Showcasing an interdisciplinary dialogue between a set of highly established scholars, this volume:

    • Clarifies what is and is not known about human language and animal communication systems
    • Presents speculative arguments as a philosophical exercise to help define the boundaries of what our current science can tell us about non-speculative areas of investigation
    • Provides readers with a clearer sense of how our knowledge about language is better informed through a cross-disciplinary investigation
    • Offers a better understanding of future avenues of research on language

    This rich interdisciplinary collection, with chapter authors including Noam Chomsky, Derek Ball, Denise Herzing, and Irene Pepperberg, will be of interest to researchers and students studying non-human communication, astrobiology, and language invention.

    List of Contributors

    1. Goals of the volume—Jeffrey Punske

    2. Many Ways to Say Things: What the Diversity of Animal Communication on Earth Can Tell Us About the Likely Nature of Alien Language—Arik Kershenbaum

    3. Recognizing Intentional Signals and Their Meaning in Non-Human Communication-- Catherine Hobaiter, Adriano R. Lameira, Derek Ball

    4. Getting Out of Our Skin: What Decoding Interspecies Communication and Nonhuman Intelligence Can Tell Us About Deciphering Alien Languages.—Denise Herzing

    5. Communicative Resources Beyond the Verbal Tier: A View on Xenolinguistics from Interactional Linguistics-- Heike Ortner

    6. How Studies of Communication among Nonhumans and between Humans and Nonhumans Can Inform SETI-- Irene M. Pepperberg

    7. Patterns of Communication of Human Complex Societies as a Blueprint for Alien Communication-- Anamaria Berea

    8. Interstellar Competence: Applications of Linguistics and Communicative and Cultural Competencies to Extraterrestrial Communication-- Sumayya K.R. Granger, Judd Ethan Ruggill, and Ken S. McAllister

    9. Why Do We Assume That We Can Decode Alien Languages?-- Con Slobodchikoff

    10. Xenolinguistic fieldwork—Claire Bowern

    11. Investigating the foundations of meaning in a xenolanguage-- Andrew McKenzie

    12. A Linguistic Perspective on the Drake Equation: Knowns and Unknowns for Human Languages and Extraterrestrial Communication-- Daniel Ross

    13. Cognition, Sensory Input, and Linguistics : A Possible Language for Blind Aliens-- Sheri Wells-Jensen

    14.The Design Features of Extraterrestrial Language: A Domain-General Approach-- Darcy Sperlich

    15. Universal Grammar—Ian Roberts, Jeffrey Watumull, Noam Chomsky

    16. Where Does Universal Grammar Fit in the Universe? Human Cognition and the Strong Minimalist Thesis—Bridget D. Samuel and Jeffrey Punske

    17. Learning and adaptation of communication systems in biological life forms-- Jessie S. Nixon and Fabian Tomaschek

    18. Writing systems and METI: Off-the-shelf encoding of human physiology, language, cognition, and culture—Daniel Harbour



    Douglas A. Vakoch is Director of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence), a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to transmitting intentional signals to nearby stars. He is the editor of more than a dozen books, including Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature (2021) and The Routledge Handbook of Ecofeminism and Literature (2022).

    Jeffrey Punske is Associate Professor and the director of undergraduate studies in linguistics at Southern Illinois University. He is the editor of Language Invention and Linguistics Pedagogy (2020).